Dental care is over important for our furry friends. According to the AVMA, "It's estimated that by the age of two, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have some form of periodontal disease." So what can we do to help our pets?
1) Brushing their teeth: Cue laughing, right?! Most people barely have time to brush their pets' coat let along their teeth! And few pets tolerate teeth brushing. Plus for it to be effective, it needs to be done daily. I admit I never brush my dogs teeth! So what else can we do?
2) Dental chews: There are endless dental chews available. However, do we know if they work? The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) has tested products for efficacy and has a list of recommended products that will add in preventing periodontal disease. The list ranges from kibble to chews to water additives. We recommend choosing a product off this list that your pet enjoys and ideally using on a daily/regular basis.
3) Water additives: Again, there are lost of water additives available. However, the VOHC recommends a product called Healthy Mouth. This can be purchased off their website and added to your pet's water. Remember when introducing any change start slow so your pet can adjust!
4) Regular dental health assessments: And of course it is really important that your pet's teeth are regularly assessed. For small breeds and cats, it is important this be completed on a regular basis (depending on the pet anywhere from every 6 months to every 2 years) under general anesthesia by your veterinarian. What you see on the surface of the tooth is just the beginning. It is important the gum tissue is checked for bleeding pockets, the teeth are checked for fractures, root exposure, and is possible radiographs are taken to fully evaluate the health of the tooth.
Our goal is to keep your pet's teeth and gums healthy for as long as possible. Once the tissue becomes damaged we often need to extract the teeth. And while your pet can do great with less teeth, the unhealthy tissue can harbor infection and inflammation that is not good for your pet overall! That's why it is important to keep those pearly whites white!
Boo Donoho, DVM
Southern Animal Hospital